The Colt Navy Revolver
Six-shot M1851 of First Sergeant John Myers
By Roderick Gainer, Curator, Arlington Cemetery
June 5, 2013
Recently, the U.S. Army Center of Military History acquired a six-shot M1851 Colt Navy Revolver used in the Civil War by John Myers, who in 1861 enlisted as a First Sergeant in the 6th Kansas Cavalry Regiment—a tough, hard-riding outfit of Jayhawkers who saw extensive service in the Trans-Mississippi Theater. The revolver, manufactured in 1862, was issued to Myers by his unit. Introduced in 1851, the Colt Navy or "Belt Pistol" was a highly successful firearm, which was used extensively both on the Western Plains and in the Civil War. The term "Navy" refers to the weapon's .36 caliber bore rather than to a branch of service.
John Myers was born in Germany in 1834, but immigrated to the United States before 1860. After wandering a bit, the young man settled in Shawnee, Kansas, and took up the profession of painter. He married and had a daughter. The 6th Cavalry muster rolls note that he had a "ruddy" completion, stood five foot seven inches, had brown hair, and blue eyes.
The 6th saw action, first as part of the Army of the Frontier, and later in VII Corps. Myers served in engagements at Newtonia, Old Fort Wayne, Prairie Grove, Honey Springs, the Camden Expedition, Poison Springs, and Marais des Cygnes. During his time in the Army, Myers never reported to the hospital or missed any form of duty. In November 1864, the now grizzled veteran returned home. For electing to keep his service revolver, he was charged $20.
Myers returned to Kansas, resumed farming, and had three more children, all of whom survived the dangers of childhood and eventually raised families of their own. Myers' own health, however, had been ruined by his military service. He suffered greatly from lung disease and in 1884 died of "consumption," the period term for tuberculosis. His wife only briefly survived him. His gallant service is commemorated, however, by acquisition of his weapon, which becomes part of the Army's core collection of historical artifacts at the Museum Support Center, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
The M1851 Colt Navy Revolver of First Sergeant John Myers, 6th Kansas Cavalry Regiment. When Myer's mustered out, the regiment noted that he owed $20 when he elected to keep his sidearm.